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Sri Lanka bans face coverings after terrorist attacks

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A ban has been put in place forbidding all face coverings
A ban has been put in place forbidding all face coverings

Sri Lanka has officially banned face coverings in public, following suicide attacks on Easter Sunday that killed at least 250 people and injured hundreds.

President Maithruipala Sisirsena said he used an emergency law to impose the restriction starting Monday.

Any face garment which “hinders identification” will be banned to ensure national security, his office said.

Sri Lanka remains on high alert eight days after Islamist attacks that hit churches and hotels. Dozens of suspects have been arrested, but local officials warned that more militants remained at large.

How many people are affected?

Sri Lanka has a very small Muslim population – out of 21 million, 9.7% are Muslim (mainly Sunni), and the amount of women wearing a burqa (
a one-piece veil that covers the face and body ) or niqab (the face cover) are unknown.

Last week a Sri Lankan MP had proposed a ban on women wearing the burqa, saying it should be outlawed on security grounds.

According to news outlet India Today, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama, an organisation of Muslim clerics in Sri Lanka, had also asked women to avoid wearing face coverings.

Over the weekend thousands of Sri Lankan military troops stood guard on the streets, protecting churches and mosques.

Sri Lankan security personnel stand guard outside Meththai Grand Jumma Mosque during the Friday noon prayer in Kattankudy.
Sri Lankan security personnel stand guard outside Meththai Grand Jumma Mosque during the Friday noon prayer in Kattankudy. Photo: AFP

Sunday church services were cancelled across the country as a precaution, but worshipers in the capital still gathered to pray outside St Anthony’s Shrine, which was badly damaged in the attacks.

The number of people arrested in connection with the bloodshed rose to 150. Sri Lankan authorities are also hunting for around 140 followers of the jihadist group Islamic State, which has said it was involved in the bombings, but has not given details.

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